US Existing-Home Sales Fall for Second Month

Palm Beach County mansion sales rose in January

Sales of existing homes in Northwest Indiana grew in January as compared to a year ago, but not by as much as prices, continuing a trend in the seven counties that make up the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors.

Sales of existing homes across the country fell 3.2 percent in January compared to December and 4.8 percent versus last January.

Existing home sales in January declined on the local, state and national levels.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in January was $240,500, up 5.8 percent from January 2017 ($227,300).

In addition to the rising prices, the average interest rate for 30-year mortgages rose for the fourth straight month and is expected to continue rising in 2017 as monetary policymakers respond to inflation. The amount of inventory has fallen year-over-year for 32 consecutive months.

Lawrence Yun, the association's chief economist, said "the utter lack of sufficient housing supply and its influence on higher home prices muted overall sales activity in much of the USA last month".

Even amid reports that buyer traffic is picking up, sales still lagged last January's pace.

The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate reached 4.38 percent last week, the highest in almost four years.

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Yun blames the lack of building of single-family homes over the past decade - since the housing crisis hit - as a major reason for the inventory crisis that is weighing on affordability.

Inventory is now at a 3.4-month supply.

"However, there's hope that the tide is finally turning", added Yun. "There was a nice jump in new home construction in January and homebuilder confidence is high".

"In fact, the mortgage rate has been greater than five percent in 38 of the last 46 years, so it is unlikely that large numbers of home buyers will be dissuaded by a modest increase in mortgage rates", he says. The median selling price of $155,000 topped last year's by 9.2 percent.

Realtor.com's Market Hotness Index, measuring time-on-the-market data and listings views per property, revealed that the hottest metro areas in January were San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.; Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.; Midland, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colo.

Twenty-two percent of existing-home sales in January were all-cash, with 17 percent by individual investors.

Pent up demand due to lack of inventory could also result in some home buyers overlooking rising rates. Less than six months is considered a "seller's market".

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